Boeing updates testing of A160T Hummingbird UAV

Carbon fiber composites are used to manufacture the four rotors and many of the aerostructures on the A160T unmanned aerial vehicle, which has logged more than 300 hours of testing to date.

Mansik Johng, A160 advanced design manager at Boeing Defense, Space & Security (St. Louis, Mo.), provided an update on testing of its composites-intensive A160T Hummingbird unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) rotorcraft at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America 2010 trade show (Aug. 24 to 27 in Denver, Colo.).

The A160T, which features rotors and aerostructures constructed of carbon fiber composites, has 5,500 to 6,500 lb (2,495 to 2,948 kg) gross weight, 2,500 lb/1,134 kg payload, a 20,000 ft/6,096m ceiling, measures 35 ft/10.7m nose to tail and features four rotors that have a diameter of 36 ft/11m.

In testing, the A160T has demonstrated 18.7 hours of endurance with a 3,000 lb/1,361 kg payload, which Boeing says is a world record for a UAV. Total test time to date is more than 300 hours. The craft optimizes performance by varying rotor speed 60 to 100 percent.

Boeing, which began A160T production in March 2010, has committed to manufacture 21 aircraft. The company says this commitment has not changed, despite the crash of an A160T Hummingbird during testing earlier this year. Boeing is still investigating the accident, and Johng would not speculate about the cause of the crash.

Johng confirmed that carbon fiber composites on the craft are currently hand layed, but noted that automated systems are being evaluated. Make/buy decisions are also forthcoming for fiber and resin type.